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What is an ISP?

What is an ISP

What does ISP stand for? It is an abbreviation for internet service provider, meaning an organisation, often in the form of a company, providing internet access to consumers and businesses for a fee. The services provided by ISPs enable customers to surf the web and carry out online activities such as shopping, emailing and remote working.

The industry’s ISP definition may also include an information service provider, a storage service provider, an internet service provider or any combination of the three.

The types of internet service providers can be commercial, community-owned, non-profit, and private. Examples of ISPs include Virgin Media, EE, BT and AOL. Some ISPs may also provide other services such as web hosting, domain registration, email and browser services.

There are different tiers of ISP, ranging from local providers to tier one companies owned by infrastructure providers (fibre-optic cables, telecom networks). A local ISP would buy access from a larger ISP to sell to customers.

History of ISP

The internet was developed as a network between government research laboratories and participating universities to communicate in the 1950s. By the late 1980s, there was increased internet use in the form of email using dial-up connections through a phone line. Full access to the internet was not readily available.

ISPs such as CompuServe and American Online (AOL) were the first commercial internet service providers in the US to provide limited access to the internet by email. Boston, US-headquartered The World was the first commercial ISP to provide an internet network service to the world.

Despite the growing popularity of email and rising internet activities, the internet remained largely inaccessible in the late 1980s as users required technical knowledge to dial in to the system. Additionally, there was no agreement on how documents on the network were formatted. 

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the world wide web, a way of structuring and linking all the information on the internet, making it quick and easy to access data. Following that development, the internet and the world wide web became an established phenomenon by the mid-1990s.

The internet is often confused with the world wide web. The internet is a network infrastructure that connects devices together. The world wide web is a way of accessing information through the internet medium.

Internet connectivity options and speed continued to improve in the 2000s as ISP developed broadband technology, a higher bandwidth connection to the internet compared with the standard phone line.

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